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Employees speak out about Jetson closure

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BATON ROUGE- Current and former employees at the Jetson Center for Youth painted a disturbing picture of what it was like to work within the prison walls.

They claim there were violent confrontations within the facility and management issues. Over the weekend, 76 of the most troubled youth were transferred to facilities in Bridge City near New Orleans and Monroe.

Dr. Mary Leach taught troubled kids at the facility for seven months. Things were great until she started speaking up.

"When I alleged a hostile work environment, incivility in the work place, the lawyers took over and six to seven weeks later I was terminated," Leach said.

Leach recalled violent confrontations with kids.

"There was a tremendous amounts of fights with kids injured, fractured faces, bones in their faces, a staff member suffered fractured ribs and was injured as well," Leach said.

Safety is part of the reason why the 76 youths were transferred out of the facility. It caught current employees off-guard. Many were too afraid to go on camera, but not afraid to say how they felt.

"It caught us by surprise," a current employee said. "There are well over 150 people that are completely out of work."

Plans are in the works to allow family members of the incarcerated youth to visit them in Bridge City near New Orleans and Monroe, but those plans have not been finalized.

"We haven't though through that, but will be as accommodating as we can," OJJ Deputy Secretary Mary Livers said.

As the reality of the closure sets in, people who once worked there and still work there believe real reforms need to be made.

"The leadership was weak, staffing inadequate, people just didn't care about the kids," Leach said.

The building will sit in its current form until money is secured to improve security or tear down the facility.


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